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Film reviews: Kate Winslet drama cuts no ice

THE BIG RELEASE

The Mountain Between Us

(12A) ★★★✩✩

KATE WINSLET and Idris Elba are two strangers, Alex and Ben, thrown together in extreme conditions when their small aircraft crashes in the snow-capped peaks of Utah. With no sign of rescue, the pair — along with the dead pilot’s dog — must try to get off the mountain before their dwindling food supplies run out.

This marks the first Hollywood feature from director Hany Abu-Assad and it appears an unusual choice. His previous work, Oscar-nominated best foreign language features Paradise Now and Omar, dealt with far weightier issues. This story is a more slender affair, focused on whether Alex and Ben (and the dog) will survive their ordeal, and whether the couple will overcome their differences — she’s an impulsive photojournalist; he’s a logic-driven neurosurgeon — and fall in love.

Given these actors’ palpable skills, their characters’ hazardous location and the awe-inspiring widescreen cinematography (the film is full of beauty and the scenery jaw-dropping), this narrative, adapted from the book by Charles Martin, should be enough to craft a romantic drama brimming with tension and excitement. Yet despite the perils of a journey through the ice-bound wilderness — Ben slips towards a precipice, Alex and her injured leg tumble into a lake, a snarling wild cat attacks — the movie fails to fully engage.

Perhaps it’s the sense of inevitability, climaxing in a sentimental final act, but the affection the film-makers hope to kindle for these characters never quite sparks. Still, audiences will end up rooting for the hound.

THE VERDICT

A beautifully shot survival picture which, despite Winslet and Elba’s best efforts, fails to fully warm the heart

Woody keeps you watching

The Glass Castle (18) ★★✩✩✩

BRIE LARSON dons shoulder pads and a bouffant for this Eighties-set drama. Based on gossip columnist Jeannette Walls’ memoir, it’s the story of scars left by unusual parenting.

Maybe she’s weighed down by the big hair but Larson is left with the least interesting role. It doesn’t help that the film frequently flips back to Jeannette’s childhood, with scenes far more interesting than any of the family squabbles in her grown-up years. Fortunately, Woody Harrelson, as the father, is a powerful presence throughout; he’s the reason you’re still watching by the end. JAMES MOTTRAM

Rock doc with an added twist

On The Road (15) ★★★✩✩

DIRECTOR Michael Winterbottom’s avowed aim was to make a film about a band on tour, and he seems to pick Wolf Alice by chance. There’s plenty of gig footage but the focus is the stuff in between: the romance of life on the road as seen through the eyes of a fictional intern called Estelle (Leah Harvey) who gets it on with fictional roadie Joe (James McArdle), both of whom are travelling on the real-life tour bus. Occasionally a delightfully intimate filmic device, it soon wears thin and will frustrate Wolf Alice fans since the band mainly waft about in the background. LARUSHKA IVAN-ZADEH